Papers Relating to Foreign Affairs, Accompanying the Annual Message of the President to the First Session Thirty-ninth Congress
Mr. Harvey to Mr. Seward
Sir: The papers herewith enclosed will bring to your view the proceedings of the Cortes in regard to the recent melancholy event which has so much shocked the civilized world.
The note of the minister of foreign affairs only communicates the action of the chamber of deputies, because the motion in that body specially required it to be done, while that in the peers did not do so. I have thought it best, however, to send a translated copy of the fall proceedings in both branches of the [Page 122] Cortes, in order that their spirit may be the better appreciated. The tardy publication of the official journal does not permit at this time (on the eve of the departure of the mails) such a translation as I desired to furnish, but the general tone of the speeches is fairly reported. That of Mr. Rebello da Silva, in the peers, was remarkably eloquent and touching, and has received very imperfect justice at the hands of the translator. In the pressure of the moment it has been found impracticable to translate one of the addresses, which is communicated in the original.
It seemed to me only becoming to make an acknowledgment of the note of the chamber of deputies, and I beg to enclose a copy of my letter to that effect.
Every manifestation of respect to the memory of the late President Lincoln which could be expected or desired has been made by this government and people, both in an official and in a private manner. His Majesty the King, immediately upon being informed of the sad event, sent me the kindest words of sympathy and regret. Every member of the government called in person to express similar sentiments, and when our ships-of-war, the Niagara and Kearsarge, exhibited the customary signs of mourning on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday last, the Portuguese national ships not only united in a similar observance, but Castle Belem also responded to all the salutes by order of the authorities, and without any notice or request on our part.
While upon this subject, I may be permitted to remark, as quite worthy of notice, that the popular legislative bodies of the different states of Europe have taken the initiative in nearly all the expressions of public sympathy. Such a tribute was not only fitting in itself towards our lamented President, but the fact is significant of a mighty change and progress in ideas and usages, as it is of a coming time in the near future when the peoples of Europe will claim the right to assert those great principles of political and personal liberty which Abraham Lincoln illustrated so well, and for which he may be said to have even made a sacrifice of his life.
I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.
Mr. Rebello da Silva. Mr. Speaker, I desire to bring forward some considerations in an affair which I deem of importance; my object is to present my reasons for the motion which I shall presently introduce.
The house is aware, by official documents published in the foreign papers, that a criminal event has plunged in grief and mourning a great nation on the other side of the Atlantic—the powerful republic of the United States.
The Count d’Avila. I desire to speak on this incident on the part of the government.
Mr. Rebello da Silva. President Abraham Lincoln has been assassinated in the theatre, almost in the very arms of his wife !
The perpetration of this cruel act has caused profound pain in America and in every court of Europe. Every cabinet and every parliament have given vent to their deep feelings on such a painful event. It behooves all civilized societies, it becomes almost the duty of all constituted political bodies, to cause their manifestations to be accompanied by the sincere expression of horror and profound pain with which they deplore acts so grave and criminal. [Hear, hear.]
It very often happens, apparently through fatality or through the sublime disposition or unfathomable mysteries of Providence, which’ is the most Christian historic law, that in the life of nations as in that of individuals, after attaining the highest position; after consummating the most eventful destiny, and even having reached the very highest steps in the scale of human greatness, when the road appears suddenly easy and smooth, when all clouds disappear from the horizon and the brightest light enlivens every object around, it is then that an [Page 123] invisible hand raises itself up from darkness, that an occult and inexorable force arms itself in silence, and brandishing the poignard of a Brutus, pointing the cannon of a Wellington, or presenting the poisoned cup of the Asiatic kings, dashes down from the heights the triumphant and laurelled victor, and casts him at the foot of Pompey’s statue like Cæsar, at the feet of exhausted fortune like Napoleon, at the feet of the Roman colossus like Hannibal.
The mission of all great men, of all heroes, who are looked upon almost as demigods, while receiving, as they do, from above, that short-lived omnipotence which revolutionizes society and transforms nations, passes away like the tempest’s blast in its fiery car, and moments afterwards dashes itself against the eternal barriers of impossibility, those barriers which none can go beyond, and where all the pride of their ephemeral power is humbled and reduced to dust. God alone is immutable and great.
Death strikes the blow, or ruin attains them in the height of their power, as an evidence to all princes, conquerors, and nations, that their hour is but one, and short; that their work becomes weak, as all human work, from the moment that the luminous column which guided them is extinguished and darkness overtakes them on their way; the new road which they have carved out, and whereby they expected to proceed undaunted and secure, have turned into abysses where they have fallen and perished from the moment that the Most High numbered the days of their empire and their ambition. [Hear, hear.]
This has been witnessed as a terrible example, as an admirable lesson, in the catastrophes which have overtaken the most conspicuous men in history; and thus do we this day see the recent pages of the annals of the powerful republic of the United States spotted with the illustrious blood of one of its most remarkable citizens.
At the close of the first four years of a government, during which war became his motto, the President of the republic is suddenly struck down at the moment of his triumph, and his now inanimate and paralyzed hands let fall those reins of administration which the force and energy of his will, the co-operation of his countrymen, the prestige and sublimity of the grand idea which he personified and defended, have immortalized with the acclamations of millions of arms on the battle-fields and of voices in the popular elections. Re-elected, carried a second time on the popular bucklers to thes upreme administration of affairs at the moment when the ardor of a civil contest was subsiding, when the union of that immense dilacerated body seemed to foreshadow the healing up of the wounds whence had gushed forth for so many months and in such torrents the generous blood of the free, almost in the arms of victory, in the midst of that populace who loved him most, in the centre of his popular court, he suddenly meets with death, and the bullet of an obscure fanatic closes and seals up the golden volume of his destiny at the very hour when success promised a new life and was welcoming peace with joyful acclamations.
This is no king who disappears in the darkness of the tomb, burying with himself, like unto Henry the IVth, the realization of great hopes. He is the chief of a glorious people, leaving a successor in every citizen who shared his ideas and who sympathized with his noble and well-founded aspirations. It is not a purple-covered throne which has been covered with crape; it is the heart of a great empire which has been cast into mourning. That cause of which he was the strenuous champion has not ceased to exist, but all weep at his loss, in horror at the crime and the occasion, and for the expectations which his pure and generous intentions had inspired.
Lincoln, a martyr to the prolific principle which he represented in power and in strife, now belongs to history and to posterity. Like unto the name of Washington, whose example and principles he followed, his own name shall be allied with the memorable era to which he belonged and which he appreciated.
As the champion of freedom in America, Lincoln drew without hesitation the sword of the republic, and with the point thereof erased from the code of a free people that antisocial stigma, that blasphemy against human nature, the sad, shameful, infamous codicil of antiquated societies, the dark and repugnant abuse of slavery, which Jesus Christ was the first to condemn from the height of the cross when he proclaimed the equality of men before God, and which nineteen centuries of a civilization enlightened by the Gospel has proscribed and condemned as the opprobrium of these our present times. [Hear, hear.]
At the moment that he cast away the chains of an unfortunate race of men, and when he contemplated millions of future citizens in the millions of emancipated men; at the very moment that the echo of Grant’s victorious cannon proclaimed the emancipation of the soul, of conscience, and of labor; when the lash was about to drop from the hand of the taskmaster; when the former hut of the slave was about to be converted into a home; at the moment that the stars of the Union, bright and resplendent with the gladdening light of liberty, waved triumphant over the fallen ramparts of Petersburg and Richmond, it is then that the grave opens its jaws, and the strong and the powerful falls to rise no more. In the midst of triumphs and acclamations a spectre appeared unto him, and, like that of Cæsar in the ides of March, said, Thou hast lived !
Far be it from me to enter into the appreciation of the civil questions which have disturbed the brotherhood of the same family in America; I am neither their judge nor their censor. I bow down to a principle, that of liberty, whenever I see it respected and upheld; but at the same time I have learned to love and cherish another, not less sacred and glorious, the principle of independence. May the force of progress in our days bind again those who [Page 124] have been separated by differences of opinion, and may it reconcile the ideas which exist in the heart, the aspirations, and in the desire of all generous-minded men.
In this warfare, the proportions of which have exceeded everything that has ever been seen or heard of in Europe, the vanquished of to-day are worthy of the great race from which they descend. Grant and Lee are two giants, whom history will in future respect in an inseparable manner. But the hour of peace was perhaps about to strike, and Lincoln desired it as the reward of his pains, as the great result of summary sacrifices. After the exhibition of strength comes toleration; after the bloody fury of battle comes the fraternal embrace of citizens.
Such were his manifested intentions—these were the last and noble wishes which he had formed. And at this very instant, perhaps the only one in which a noble mind is so powerful in doing good, and when the soul rises above whole legions as a pacificator, that the hand of the assassin rises up in treachery and cuts off such mighty and noble purposes. [Hear! Hear!]
Were not the American nation a people grown old in the painful strifes and experiences of government, who is there that could foresee the fatal consequences of this sudden blow?
Who knows but that, in such a case, the fiery torch of civil war, in all its horrible pomp and terror, would spread itself to the furthermost States of the federation? But happily no such calamity is to be apprehended. At the time that the press and public opinion have, with justice and severity, condemned this event, and given expression to their horror at the fatal crime, sentiments and feelings which are common to the whole of Europe, they pay homage to the ideas of peace and conciliation just as if the great man who first invoked them had not disappeared from the great scene of the world. And I purposely repeat the expression great man, because, in truth, great is that man who, confiding alone in his own merits, rises from profound obscurity to the greatest heights, like Napoleon, like Washington, like Lincoln. Who elevate themselves to the heights of power and of greatness, not in virtue of the chances of birth or of a noble descent, but by the prestige of his own actions, by that nobility which begins and ends in themselves, and which is solely the work of their own hands. [Cheers; hear, hear.]
The man who makes himself great and famous by his own acts and by his own genius is more to be envied than he who was born among inherited escutcheons of nobility.
Lincoln belongs to that privileged race, to that aristocracy. In infancy his energetic soul was tempered in poverty; in youth, labor inspired him with the love of liberty and respect for the rights of men. Up to the age of 22, educated in adversity, with his hands hardened by honorable labor, while resting from the fatigues of daily toil, drinking in from the inspired pages of the Bible the lessons of the Gospel, and in the ephemeral leaves of the public journals which the morning brings forth and the evening disperses, the first rudiments of that instruction which is subsequently ripened by solitary meditation. Light gradually and gently illuminated that soul. The wings with which it took its flight then expanded and strengthened, the chrysalis felt one bright day the rays of the sun which called it into life, it broke through its bonds, and rose up from its humble condition to those luminous spheres where a higher destiny was awaiting its approach. The farmer, the laborer, the shepherd, like Cincirinatus, abandoned his plough half buried in the earth, and as a legislator in his native State, and subsequently in the national Congress, he prepared in the public tribune to become one day the popular chief of many millions of people, the defender of the whole principle which Wilberforce inaugurated. What strifes, what agitated scenes, what a series of herculean works and incalculable sacrifices are involved and represented by their glorious results in these four years of warfare and government!
Armies in the field, such as ancient history speaks not of; immense battles, during which the sun rises and sets two and three times before victory declares itself on either side; Heavy marches, where thousands of victims, whole legions, cover with their dead every foot of the conquered ground. Invasions, the daring and dangers whereof far surpass the records of Attila and the Huns!
What awful obsequies for the scourge of slavery ! What a terrible and salutary lesson has this people, still rich and vigorous in youth, given to the timid scruples of ancient Europe, now the battle-field of principles likewise sacred!
These were the beacons, the land-marks, which guided his grand career. If the sword was the instrument in his hands, yet liberty, inspiration, and the courage, which were the outgrowth of his principles, were equally effective. Trampling down the thorns in his path, guiding his steps amidst the tears and the blood of so many holocausts, he still lived to see the promised land. He was not permitted to plant on that soil the auspicious olive branch of peace and concord. When he was about to reunite the loosened bond of the Union, when he was about to infuse into the body of his country the vivifying spirit of free institutions, after collecting and reuniting its dispersed and bloody members; when the standard of the republic, its funeral dirges ended, its agonies of pride and defeat silenced and subsided, was about to rise again, and to spread its glorious folds over a reconciled people, purified and cleansed from the stain of slavery, the great athlete tripped in the ring and fell, thus proving that, after all, he was but mortal. [Hear, hear. Applause.]
I think this brief and hurried sketch is quite sufficient for the occasion. The chamber being, by its nature, by duty, and by orgnizaton, not only the conservator, but the faithful [Page 125] warden of traditions and principles, will not hesitate to take part in the demonstration which the elective chamber has already adopted, thus following the example of all the en-lightened parliaments of Europe. Silence, in the presence of such criminal attempts, can only be maintained by such senates as are dumb and void of elevated sentiments and aspirations. G Hear, hear.]
By voting the present motion the chamber of peers takes a part in the feelings of pain now experienced by all civilized nations. The crime which has closed the career of Lincoln—a martyr to the noble principles of which this epoch has reason to be proud—is almost, is essentially, a regicide, and a monarchical country cannot but abhor and condemn it. The descendants of those men who were the first in the 16th century to reveal to Europe the new road which, across stormy and unknown seas, opened the gates of the eastern world, must not be the last to bow down before the grave of a great citizen and a great magistrate, who himself piloted his people through terrible tempests, and succeeded in leading them in triumph over the fallen ramparts of slavery’s stronghold. Let each people and each era have its task and its share of glory. Let each illustrious citizen have his crown of laurel, or his civic crown. [Hear, hear. Applause.]
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Count d’Avila. As a peer of the realm, he takes part in this noble manifestation. As minister of the crown he had already done as much, in his own name at first, when mere rumors were circulated that the crime had been committed; and again, after having received the order of his Majesty, as soon as no doubt, unfortunately, existed on the subject, in order to show what were the sentiments of the Portuguese government.
Mr. Rebello da Silva. Mr. Speaker, I am rejoiced to hear the words of the minister of finance and of foreign affairs. They give evidence that the government has acted in this affair with that propriety and promptitude which its duty indicated, and which are inspired by noble feelings. I shall now lay on the table my motion of order, as follows:
“The chamber of peers deplores, with the most sincere feelings of pain, the criminal act which has just thrown into mourning the sons of a great nation, by the death of the President of the United States of America, Mr. Lincoln, who died a martyr to his duty.”
L. A. Rebello da Silva, the speaker. The chamber has heard the reading of this motion. I do not consider it necessary to have it again read from the table, as it would not have a better effect than when read by its author. [Hear, hear.]
Mr. Rebello da Silva. The Count d’Avila has likewise signed the motion.
The Speaker. All the worthy peers who approve of the motion will be pleased to indicate as much.
It was unanimously approved.
The Count d’Avila. I request that it be recorded in the minutes that the voting was unanimous. [Hear, hear.]
The President. The proposal just placed on the table by the deputy, Mr. Medeiros; will now be read; it is as follows:
Proposal: I move that the house do insert in its minutes a significant expression of the profound emotion with which it received the news of the barbarous assassination committed on the person of Mr. Lincoln, the President of the United States of America, and that the worthy representative of that republic at this court be respectfully informed of the deliberation of the house on this subject.
House of sessions, May 3, 1865. The deputy Henrique Medeiros de Paula Medeiros.
The minister of public works, (Mr. Carlos Bento.) I do not know whether the motion is admitted, but it appears to me that from its very nature, it is of an urgent and exceptional character. On my part I do not hesitate, in the name of the government, in sharing such a noble and feeling manifestation as the one contained in the proposal.
We are all unanimous, in common with the civilized nations of Europe, in condemning an act which has excited the indignation of the whole people, without respect to party distinctions. All and every individual reprobates the fatal deed which has taken place in the United States.
I willingly take part in the expression of the vote contained in the proposal. I feel convinced that the Portuguese parliament will not hesitate one moment in adopting the manifestation of such becoming sentiments. [Hear, hear.]
Mr. Sant’Anna e Vasconcellos. I thank the illustrious deputy, the author of the motion, for having brought it forward, and I do so from my whole heart.
Mr. Paula Medeiros, I thank the noble deputy for his expressions.
Mr. Sant’Anna e Vasconcellos. If the disastrous war which has existed in America during the last three or four years has a justification, it is to be found in the one grand and noble motive which has dominated throughout the—abolition of slavery. The man who has [Page 126] just fallen a victim to the assassination which we all deplore maintained that noble and sub lime idea. In view of the fact which is in itself so much to be deplored and in presence of the great and persistent idea of that great citizen, we cannot refrain from being unanimous in voting the motion.
The Minister of Public Works. I spoke in the name of the government, and I can assure the house that the government has already tendered those manifestations which its duty and its feelings clearly indicated. I congratulate myself on the fact that the parliament was allowed the opportunity, by a spontaneous initiative, of manifesting its sentiments.
In putting the motion to the vote it was carried unanimously.
I have the honor of handing you copies, inclosed, of a communication addressed to me by the secretary of the chamber of deputies, under yesterday’s date, and of the motion referred to in said communication, which was presented in the session of the 3d instant and voted unanimously, manifesting the sentiments of said chamber in regard to the horrible deed committed on the person of Mr. Abraham Lincoln, late President of the United States of America.
While requesting you to bring these documents before your government, it is my duty to inform you that his Majesty’s government, immediately that it was informed of an event which has saddened a nation whose destinies had been confided to such an illustrious magistrate, issued the needful instructions to his Majesty’s minister in the United States, with a view to express to the American government the profound regret with which his Majesty the King and his government received the news of that event.
I avail of this opportunity to reiterate the assurances of my most distinguished consideration.
Department of State for Foreign Affairs, May 6, 1865.
I have received, with deep emotion, the expression of sympathy and condolence uttered by the honorable chamber of deputies in a manner so touching and marked, in reference to the deplorable event which now saddens the hearts of the American people.
In the very hour when peace had spread her benignant wings over a distracted country, he, who by his virtues, gentleness, and public worth had inspired everywhere a generous confidence, was struck down by the criminal hand of passionate resentment.
The martyrdom with which an eventful career was crowned becomes the legacy not only of a nation but of humanity; for his life was a sacrifice on the altar of duty.
A great and a good man has fallen, but the principles which he represented and defended so uprightly and well survive to honor his memory, and will continue to live and be cherished wherever constitutional government, liberty, and justice are respected.
The people of the United States, who had learned to value the good will and honorable conduct of Portugal during a period of strife now happily terminated, will welcome her voice of sympathy in this hour of universal grief as a token of friendship which should bind them more closely together.
It will be my duty to communicate immediately to the government of the United States the sentiments expressed by the honorable chamber of deputies, but I cannot permit this occasion to pass without conveying, on behalf of the constituted authorities and for myself individually, a united appreciation of this high mark of consideration and respect.